Cat-shooting teens to finish sentences on home confinement

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

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Two Battle Ground teenagers convicted last year of shooting cats will serve the final six weeks of their sentence on electric home confinement, a judge decided Thursday.

On Oct. 4, Jaren Koistinen and Mitchell Kangas were sentenced to between one year and 11 weeks to one year and 32 weeks in a juvenile institution, with credit for time served. Koistinen, then 17, and Kangas, then 16, pleaded guilty to 12 counts of first-degree animal cruelty and drive-by shooting.

Defense attorneys this week requested an early release for the teens, so they could finish school locally.

Clark County Superior Court Judge Rich Melnick said he didn't have authority to reduce their sentences after the fact, but granted the teens electronic home confinement with freedom to attend school.

The teens were set to be released Oct. 27 from where they've been confined in the Olympia area. With the new option, they can be re-integrated into society sooner while still serving their sentences in full, Melnick said. Kangas wants to complete his senior year at Battle Ground High School, and Koistinen plans to attend Clark College.

Two victims in the cat-shooting case who attended the hearing said they objected to the new confinement terms.

"I just don't think they understand how much they've impacted me," said Tina, who didn't want to give her last name at the hearing or afterward. Her house was shot at twice between March and June 2011.

"I don't think they should get to go home," Tina said, noting she has not felt safe at home since the shootings that injured two of her cats.

Melnick said he was sympathetic to the victims and didn't condone the teens' behavior. He stressed that he wasn't releasing them early. In six weeks, "they will be in the community, anyway," he said, noting the new arrangement will serve as a transition.

"I wish there was a better answer for everyone, frankly," the judge said. "There are sometimes no easy answers."

Koistinen, Kangas and another teen, Riley Munger, were arrested in June 2011 after a Battle Ground resident called police to report her cat had been shot.

Koistinen and Kangas later admitted to Battle Ground police officers to shooting at 100 cats and two dogs, possibly injuring or killing about 50. Not all the animals were accounted for, prosecutors said.

Munger, who participated in only one night's shooting, was sentenced to a month in juvenile hall.

Koistinen and Kangas will be on probation for two years after their release.

Laura McVicker: www.twitter.com/col_courts;www.facebook.com/reportermcvicker;laura.mcvicker@columbian.com; 360-735-4516.